06 December 2013

Interview with author Nancy Christie

Today I'm thrilled to feature an interview with author and freelance writer Nancy Christie here on the blog. Nancy and I connected through Twitter, and within minutes of our first interaction she offered to feature me on her blog The Writer's Place (which has a lot of great interviews and guest posts on topics from research to book marketing and blogging and everything in between). Nancy has two books out and a third coming out soon with Pixel Hall Press. But I'll let her tell you more about that.

In the following interview, Nancy talks about the riad, eating paper, and Stephen King, among other things.

What do you write and where can we read your work?
I write both fiction and non-fiction. My published fiction includes short stories that have been published in literary magazines, including “Interim” (Red Fez), Ice Cream Sunday (Fiction 365) and Beautiful Dreamer (Full of Crow) as well as two short fiction e-books published by Pixel Hall Press: Annabelle and Alice In Wonderland. In 2014, Pixel Hall Press will also be publishing my short story collection, Traveling Left of Center, in both print and e-book formats—quite exciting for me!

My non-fiction includes both magazine articles and corporate work—a lot of corporate work! I am “on call” so to speak with a number of ad agencies and PR firms across the country. When they need a long-form writer—someone who ghostwrites articles, case studies, web copy and internal and external corporate materialsthey give me a shout and I take it on!

Your short story "Alice in Wonderland" is a chilling tale that I'd classify as dark contemporary fiction. Is that a fair description? Where did you get your inspiration for this story? How did it come to you?
I have been wondering about that myself. In this case, it wasn’t inspired by anything I heard or saw or experienced. Like many of my short stories, it started with dialogue. One sentence leads to another and before you know it, there’s a story! As for the locations that Alice imagines herself in, that was inspired by a Helen MacInnes’ spy novel I read years ago—The Gabriel Hounds. I remembered her description of the souks and the landscape and it just stuck in my mind.

The challenge was in making certain that what I wrote was accurate. I have one version of the story that is footnoted to death. I looked up everything from the type of flowers that would grow in the riad (and the word riad itself!) to the list of foods one might enjoy. It made me rather hungry to try some, especially desser miveh.

The description of Alice eating the paper was so visceral. I could feel it in my own mouth. Did you chew on or eat some paper in order to get into Alice's character for your story? What research did you do for that story and what resources did you use?
This is so embarrassing but I have to tell the truth. When I was little and spending hours reading on the old couch in the basement of our house, I would rip teeny bits of paper off the corners of the pages and chew on them. I have no idea why. It wasn’t some psychological issue. It was just something to do. But the result was the books look like mice had gotten to them!

You have a collection of short stories coming out next year with Pixie Hall Press, I believe. Are they all in the same vein as "Alice in Wonderland": dark contemporary twists on classic fantasy/fairy tales?
Dark—many of them, yes, but not really connected to fairy tales, at least, not intentionally. The title is actually also the title of one of the stories—one of the lighthearted ones, I might add. The lead character just happens to keep getting pregnant, and her mother says something to effect that, on the highway of life, she is always traveling left of center. In other words, crashing. That’s the theme of the collection: characters who can not or will not gain control over their lives but instead travel “left of center.” In some cases, they avert disaster, but just barely, but in others, they don’t.

Why did you decide to publish traditionally instead of self-publishing your books?
When I first started putting the collection together years ago, I had approached a number of agents who loved the concept, loved the pieces but said there wasn’t enough profit potential for them to take me on, especially since I didn’t have a novel at the time. Fast forward to early this summer when Pixel Hall Press announced it was looking for some short fiction, so I sent them Annabelle. They loved it, asked for another, so I sent them Alice. (Sounds vaguely like I was sending a kid to boarding school or something.)

From there, we started talking about the collection and the rest is history. Well, technically, future history since the book isn’t out yet!

While I know that many people successfully self-publish, it just wasn’t something I wanted to explore. My schedule is crowded enough. Self-publishing would be like adding yet another type of business to maintain and I just have so many hours in the day!

I notice that you reach out a lot to other writers and often invite people to write guest posts on your blog The Writer's Place. What role does community play in your writing career?
It’s important to me, even though I rarely get to actually see any of these writers! But I love hearing how other writers do what they do—and why they do it!—which is why yet another project I am working on is a book about writers and writing.

I used to teach at writing conferences, but in recent years, I have had to cut back on traveling due to some family obligations. My goal for 2014 is to get back on the road and hit some of the bigger conferences like the Willamette one! That was a great conference!

In a recent post on your blog, you talk about Stephen King's writing advice and mention that you admire him as a writer. Who are three of your favorite authors - or, alternatively, what are your three favorite books - and why?
Three? Only three? Okay, in no particular order: Agatha Christie (I loved her autobiography so much I have two copies!), Ray Bradbury and Mark Helprin.

But there are tons more authors I love, and I buy books every chance I get! My bedside table is groaning under the weight of books—both those read and those to be read. And then there are the filled-to-danger-level bookshelves in the livingroom, in the basement, in my office, books in boxes waiting for more bookshelves… What can I say? I like books.

As for Stephen King, I can only read his non-fiction books on writing—I’m too easily scared to read his fiction!

[Sione says: Me, too! Though I do love his Dark Tower series and many of his short stories.]

To learn more about Nancy Christie, visit her website and connect with her on Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, and Twitter.

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